How to Build Stakeholder Alignment for Digital Transformation
Written By: Chris Hampton | 10/10/22
Possibly the most difficult aspect of digital transformation isn't the transformation itself; but achieving lasting stakeholder alignment—that is, making sure the relevant folks are firmly on board for serious change. Today we discuss the steps you can take to build a concrete and reliable commitment to digital evolution.
If you're reading this article, you're probably already beginning to see a strategic need for digital transformation, and may be looking for strategies to get some key stakeholders in your corner. This important first step can be difficult, so we've compiled some hard-earned wisdom you can use to keep your stakeholders aligned. Read on.
Avoid superficial agreement at all costs
When you're hosting a meeting about something as impactful as digital transformation or digital strategy, it's easy to get a superficial agreement. Your stakeholders may even echo your points, and seem to be ecstatic with the direction you're suggesting. They may go as far as agreeing to put considerable resources into some new tech. But that doesn't mean you have stakeholder alignment on a full-scale digital transformation: it's only when you start agreeing on concrete steps towards digital and operational change that you've really got something you can count on.
Avoid vague agreements. Of course everyone agrees that change can be made—but what specific changes are we willing to move forward with? Aim to agree on the answers to these important questions (based on the SMART goals framework):
What do we want to accomplish?
How will we measure our progress and success?
Are we capable of achieving our goals?
Why is digital transformation important to our larger goals?
What is a reasonable timeline for accomplishing our goals?
Document your answers to these questions and your next steps in crystal clear language. Align on what specific dangers the future could hold if you don't get your goals accomplished. That's how you make real progress.
Getting a room full of stakeholders to really agree on next steps is easier said than done. One tried-and-true strategy to get a real commitment is to highlight the urgent need for change. Here are a few solid reasons why your organization may be in urgent need of a digital transformation:
Your high use of manual processes makes employees' lives harder, hurting your ability to retain good talent
Your lack of data-driven decision making may allow competitors to gain a significant edge in efficiency
Your sub-optimal processes shrink productivity and force you to hire more workers
Even if your organization is profitable today, that's no reason to rest easy; your competitors may be working hard to reinvent their business models and systems around powerful technologies, which may give them the advantage in efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction. Show your colleagues the risk that comes with doing nothing.
Get to know your stakeholders
It’s critical to understand why your stakeholders might be resistant to digital transformation. Take the time to understand each individual's goals—and make it clear how a new direction could benefit everyone. That way, you’ll know how to get stakeholders aligned on actionable next steps and (hopefully) avoid any superficial agreement.
It's also useful to understand your stakeholders' fears. Is anyone (or everyone) worried about some part of their job being replaced or made redundant by new technology? What would happen to each stakeholder's influence once the new tech is in place? Would their teams grow or shrink? You may not directly receive such blunt questions, but you should absolutely answer these questions indirectly; make it clear how everyone at the table will benefit, both collectively and individually.
Next steps for stakeholder alignment
Remember, you don't have to do everything yourself. Digital transformation may seem intimidating, but it can be a gradual step-by-step process that starts with a simple analysis of your current processes and productivity. You've got this!